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Sub-Saharan Africa is set to have its first training centre in Intellectual Property Rights (IPR). The centre will be based in Harare, Zimbabwe, and will be opened early next year (2003).

In addition to providing training courses for members of the legal profession, the new centre will also offer diploma courses to university graduates in engineering and pharmacy.

According to Christopher Kiige, technical director of the 16-nation African Regional Intellectual Property Organisation (ARIPO), a further centre will be opened in Cameroon if the Harare centre proves to be successful. “A similar centre is to be established in Cairo to cater for Arab-speaking countries,” he adds.

The Harare project is being funded by the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO), together with ARIPO and the European Patent Office (EPO). WIPO will provide equipment worth US$1 million, while ARIPO will provide the building.

The centre, to be known as the ARIPO Regional Training Centre, will be equivalent to the Geneva-based WIPO Worldwide Academy, which has up to now handled the training of staff from the African continent.

According to Kiige, however, the new centre will be aimed specifically at meeting the training needs of professionals — especially from the judiciary — from ARIPO member states.

The initial batch of 30 trainees is expected in January 2003 for an intensive six-month course. There will also be shorter courses for middle-level professionals.

The creation of the Harare training centre comes at a time when African countries are struggling to stimulate a broader awareness of the importance of IPR among its inventors and innovators.

According to Kiige, the syllabus being followed at the WIPO Academy fails fully to address IPR in a way that is tailored to the situation in Africa. “With the establishment of ARIPO Regional Training Centre, we will be better placed to offer training relevant to Africa,” he says.

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